Electronics manufacturers are trying hard to convince us that we live in the world of wireless technology. However, nothing has come up with anything better than the old proven flash drive.

For fast data transfer from one device to another, for communication on different operating systems, it is still convenient to use external data storage devices for reliable data storage.

The only problem is to properly format the USB flash drive or disk. Now I will tell you how to make it so that both macOS and Windows can work with such a flash drive without any problems later.

What File System to Choose?

Among the many existing file systems at the moment, the most popular are considered to be: FAT32, NTFS, exFAT, APFS(Apple File System), HFS+(Mac OS Extended Journaled)

Out of the box, Windows fully supports FAT32, exFAT and NTFS, when macOS supports FAT32, exFAT, HFS+ and APFS. Of course, with the help of third-party drivers and utilities, you can teach Windows to work with HFS+ and APFS, or add NTFS support to macOS, but often these drivers not free and looks like a complicated solution.

Read more: How can you Clear Application Cache and Temporary Files on your Mac?

Note: Access to APFS-formatted disks is currently possible only from Mac computers running the Sierra or High Sierra operating systems. I don’t recommend use it, if you want to share data on an external drive with multiple systems, it is better to leave the drives formatted in a more common file system, such as HFS+, FAT32 or ExFAT.

Keep it Simple

For cross-platform USB-drive using (macOS, Windows, Linux), ExFAT will be an optimal solution. In this case, it will be possible to both read data from the drive and write to it without limiting the file size to 4 GB.

Format USB for macOS and Windows

Attention! When formatting a flash drive or other drive, all data on it will be deleted, save everything you need in advance.

  • Launch the “Disk Utility” application via Spotlight or Launchpad;
How to Format USB for macOS and Windows
  • On the left panel, select the drive you need to format;
How to Format USB for macOS and Windows
  • Click Erase button;
How to Format USB for macOS and Windows
  • Specify the exFAT file system and confirm the action.
How to Format USB for macOS and Windows
  • Rename drive and click “Erase”;
How to Format USB for macOS and Windows
  • Done.
How to Format USB for macOS and Windows

Is NTFS Compatible with Mac?

This file system is more universal, but macOS does not know how to work with it, therefore, to clean up the drive you will have to download a special driver. Advantages are less need for fragmentation and compression efficiency.

  • Download the NTFS Paragon or Seagate NTFS drivers for macOS, install them;
  • Properly restart your Mac;
  • Plug the drive into the USB port, then open the disk utility;
  • The NTFS option will appear in the list — select it to perform a forced formatting operation and confirm the action.


As you can see, the choice of the file system of the drive depends on the devices with which you will use it. If only with Mac and other Apple device, choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled).

But if you want to use USB drives in cross-platform mode, I strongly recommend you using exFAT file system. The finished flash drive in exFAT format will be recognized by both a Windows PC and any Mac.

It’s the best time to ask questions and give us your feedback in comments.


Hi there! My Name is Vincent Lago! My goal is to share insightful reviews, guides, and manuals for people looking to know more about current solutions for Apple hardware and OS. I have years of technological background knowledge including owning a custom iMacs & PCs which was using for different types of business. And now, I want to share my experience with you.

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